‘Project Traveller’ and the struggle to defend our communities
By: Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Rob Ford might be the most (in)famous politician in Canadian history. Every other week a new intoxicated blunder is revealed while the entire local political establishment tries to force his resignation.
Despite the hundreds of hours of sensational reporting, the story is actually unimpressive: a ‘public’ official abusing drugs and alcohol, threatening personal rivals and flaunting his racist and homophobic views is pretty normal.
The tale of a crack smoking Mayor pales in comparison with another municipal controversy, a scandal which has faded from headlines since Rob’s escapades began to dominate.
This involves a force that has committed the most blatant violations of human rights, one that has paid over $27 million in civil lawsuits since 2000 and is now facing two new litigations totalling $65.4 million. This is a force the entire city watched taze the lifeless body of a frightened 18-year old after they shot him nine times – the latest in dozens of killings of largely Black, Brown or mentally-ill victims.
The force being described is of course the Toronto Police Service.
The incident that should have drawn the most outrage in relation to the Ford scandal was the heavily armed attack on the neighbourhood of Dixon and Kipling in June 2013. Over 100 officers with bullet proof vests, flash grenades, battering rams and automatic weapons stormed into three buildings at 5am to arrest 19 men and women.
Doors were broken down, apartments were torn apart and mothers, grandmothers and youth were terrorized and assaulted, including a 67-year-old woman kicked in the face, told by officers to die, and forced to watch as police tried to handcuff her 96-year old mother who had fallen violently out of bed.
This paramilitary operation was called ‘Project Traveller’ and it was targeted primarily against the Somali community. The raid was praised and lauded as having cleaned the neighbourhood of supposed gang members. Police announced to several residents they were there because of Rob Ford, and the Police Chief later revealed that a videotape of the Mayor had been found during the operation.
This is only the latest in dozens of similar operations conducted by Toronto Police, every one of them directed at working-class, racialized communities and arresting primarily young Black men and women. In most cases it is later revealed that well over half of those arrested are completely innocent, (as in ‘Project Flicker’ in Ardwick in 2005, or ‘Project Kryptic’ in Driftwood in 2007). These raids have proven to do nothing to end violence, and in the case of Driftwood, police were back four years later (Dec 2011) to lock up a new generation of youth.
These projects allow police to pose for photo ops in front of seized weapons, drugs and money and attempt to prove to city residents that their $1 billion annual budget isn’t going to waste.
Cops grab any cash they find in raided units without any proof of their illegal origin. Communities which face high levels of poverty, such as Somalis, Jamaicans and South Asians, often keep quantities of money at home. Thousands of dollars are taken – by the police. In ‘Project Traveller’ over $575,000 was looted.
The Rob Ford scandal is also a perfect example of the hypocrisy associated with policing in this city. Although police used incriminating evidence to humiliate Ford and try and force his resignation, they made not one move to charge him.
In Dixon meanwhile, the basis for violently rounding up many of the accused, some of whom are still languishing in jails, was nothing more than them having supposed criminals as relatives, friends or contacts in their phones: this includes senior-aged parents arrested and charged for not knowing that their children were allegedly keeping illegal items in the house.
The Mayor brazenly bought and used packages of drugs in public parking lots and washrooms, spoke for hours on the phone about his criminal activities, and yet police claim they did not have the grounds to arrest, search or even make him answer questions.
In working-class communities like Dixon, even outside of raids, youth are stopped and searched for simply being outside too late or being in too large a group. They are arrested and assaulted for having small amounts of marijuana or for trespassing violations.
From a larger perspective, the same Canadian state that is now spending $12 billion over the next 4 years to build new prisons (such as the new $540 million South Toronto Detention Center), to lock up people at the lowest levels of the drug trade, is the same country where local politicians are charged with actively collaborating with the mob. It is the same country that props up narco states like Colombia through ‘free-trade’ deals and cozy diplomatic relations; the same country that helped build Afghanistan into the largest producer of opium and heroin in the world.
The fact is the Toronto Police are not a group unto themselves. The physical attacks such as the raids, brutality and daily harassment, go hand-in-hand with social and economic attacks on these same communities from other branches of the system. In Dixon economic warfare means imposed conditions of chronic unemployment, low paying jobs and criminalizing industries such as Khat (a mild stimulant plant leaf no more harmful than coffee or shisha, but widely used among East Africans).
The sitcom/crime drama which City Hall has become over the past year has left us misinformed and distracted from the real issues at hand. Many working people have developed a liking for the slow-witted millionaire in the Mayor’s office, thinking the political establishment’s opposition to him is proof that he is somehow on our side. Bill Blair has been able to look like the poised and honest chief after the public outrage following the G20 and the killing of Sammy Yatim.
It is clear that neither side in this conflict are on our side! We as oppressed and working people shouldn’t have to rely on the Fords of the world bribing us to get us funding and social programs. We must also recognize that violations like the June 13 attack on Dixon are only able to happen because we are disorganized and divided.
It is time to build real mass movements in our neighbourhoods and communities to solve our own problems, raise and educate our children and oppose state violence. Police raids, carding, harassment, violence and mass incarceration will not end by suing, begging or reforming that structure but will only be the result of a strong, united and organized community prepared to defend itself.
by Christopher Williams of the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence
Poor Frederick Douglass apparently had it all wrong when he famously stated, “power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” According to a recent National Post opinion piece on contentious police practices in Toronto, sitting down and chatting with power, rather than demanding anything from it, is the key to progress.
Jamil Jivani, in his piece entitled “Not happy with the police? Try talking to them,” implies that those who “turn to law and policy to improve policing” or who make use of “human rights complaints or class action suits to demand changes to policing” are misguided souls who fail to recognize the value of “mediated conversations” as drivers of police reform. Having disparaged collective struggle in favour of bourgeois hyper-individualism, he recounts how he arranged to have a December 2013 conversation with two Toronto officers who, five weeks earlier, grilled him based on his (supposed) resemblance to a drug-dealer they were (supposedly) targeting. The conversation was enabled by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and, all and all, he derived satisfaction from the fact of having an amicable talk with the officers.
One of the supreme ironies of Mr. Jivani’s anti-law, anti-policy argument is that his mediated conversation took place under the auspices of a public body that came into existence through law: a 2007 amendment to the Police Services Act (Part V) initiated the 2009 opening of the OIPRD. He is therefore a beneficiary of the same police-related legal processes that he derides. Another irony: the OIPRD affirms the relevance of policy given that they accept complaints about “a policy of a police department,” as the “Complaints” section of their website indicates. Tangentially, he mentions the police killing of Sammy Yatim without considering that the resulting second-degree murder charge was issued by the Special Investigations Unit, founded in response to – god forbid – collective agitation, particularly on the part of the black community and youth.
The propositional foundation of Mr. Jivani’s overall stance is best summed up in his claim that “individual officer discretion largely determines how people will experience policing in their city.” While it is true that the low-visibility nature of policing gives cops a good measure of on-the-street decision making power, police discretion never unfolds in a vacuum. Organizational imperatives, police sub-cultural norms, prevailing public sentiments, asymmetrical power relations (between the police and the policed) and other factors establish the functional parameters within which such discretion is exercised.
If, for example, we take a look at a Toronto police practice mentioned by Mr. Jivani, namely, contact carding, it is a fact that blacks are more likely to be carded than whites in every patrol zone, it is a fact that officers are pressured by their superiors to engage in carding and it is a fact that when the contact card receipt system was implemented rates of carding plummeted. The old quip about those who never let facts get in the way of a good story applies to anyone who tries to explain carding (and numerous other police practices) with primary reference to individual officer discretion. Attempting to address large-scale violations of the law (the Charter, the Ontario Human Rights Code, etc.) as committed by “law enforcers” requires large-scale activism, not cathartic cop-meets-civilian conversations.
by M. Cooke
“I hated that part, blaming the citizens. If the police hadn’t intervened, Fredy would still be alive” said Will Prosper, a community organizer in Montreal Nord, about the coroner’s report in the death of Fredy Villanueva.
The inquest by Quebec Court Judge Andre Perrault investigated the events of August 9, 2008, that led up to a Montreal police officer firing on three unarmed youths and killing Villanueva.
The coroner’s report states that what likely took place on the day Fredy was killed was a simple police intervention and a series of unfortunate events.
“The police officers saw a group of youth playing dice. Without being certain of who’s doing what, officer Lapointe infers that all the individuals were playing dice, including Dany Villanueva [Fredy's brother]. He decides to intervene to apply a municipal law, which allows him to identify each of the individuals,” states the report.
The report ignores larger issues of racial profiling and police brutality. Nowhere is the seemingly benign municipal law against gambling in parks questioned. The law provides a justification to harass and intimidate youth, particularly in the racialized working-class community of Montreal Nord.
The report goes on to recommend a handful of relatively weak changes to the police force and other government institutions.
Astoundingly, it recommends that youth should be trained in schools on how to behave when they are being questioned for a criminal infraction and informed about the consequences of not providing an officer with identification when under arrest.
“Sure, youth should be taught what their rights are,” says Prosper in an interview with BASICS. “But even if they act within their rights, oftentimes the police will provoke them.”
Disarming the police, or just slowing down how quickly they shoot?
The coroner’s report recommends that police officers be equipped with firearms that fire rounds at a slower pace.
However, Prosper believes that it’s essential to remove firearms from the hands of police officers.
“We never talk about taking away firearms from the police, but I think it’s something we need to talk about,” Prosper told BASICS.
Prosper went on to say that “the police are too fast on the trigger. They are using their guns more often and faster. Their first response in situations is to use their guns, instead of taking the time and talking.”
In “Enquête sur la police”, Stephen Berthomet, an ex-police officer and technical adviser with the union of police officers, states that between 2000 and 2013, 189 people have been killed or severely injured by police officers in Quebec. And 106 of those people were either killed or severely injured by police firearms.
A Special Investigation Unit in Quebec
Since 1999, there have been 416 coroner’s inquests in Quebec. To date, only three officers have been indicted, and not a single one has been convicted.
Community groups have been putting pressure on the government to address this lack of justice. In response, the Parti Quebecois (PQ) is proposing to establish a ’Bureau des enquêtes independantes,’ something similar to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) that exists in Ontario.
Prosper is skeptical of the PQ’s proposed changes. He says that whether you have police officers or ex-police officers investigating police killings, “it’s the same mentality. You need citizens.”
Prosper isn’t the only one who thinks the SIU isn’t working in Ontario. The Ombudsman of Ontario came out with a report critical of the SIU. The Ombudsman reported that “[the SIU's] credibility as an independent investigative agency is further undermined by the predominant presence and continuing police links of former police officials within the SIU.”
The Ombudsman’s report continued: “the SIU has not only become complacent about ensuring that police officials follow the rules, it has bought into the fallacious argument that SIU investigations aren’t like other criminal cases, and that it is acceptable to treat police witnesses differently from civilians.”
New mayor pays lip service to addressing root causes
Denis Coderre, the new mayor of Montreal, was quoted as saying that Montreal Nord has changed a lot since Fredy’s death. He says that as mayor, he hopes to reduce the poverty and marginalization in that area.
But Coderre has been in Montreal Nord all along. He was the federal representative of the Bourassa district, which is in Montreal Nord, from 1997 to 2013.
“What has Coderre done? He’s talked a lot. He’s on twitter, but he hasn’t done anything concrete that helps people in Montreal North,” Prosper told BASICS.
“There have been cosmetic changes, such as new soccer fields, but nothing that addresses the root of the problem. The unemployment rate for youth is steadily increasing,” he adds.
“To fight poverty, it takes political leadership,” says Prosper. “Hopefully, the population will organize themselves. If we can work on these issues, we could make a difference, but if we wait for politicians, nothing will change.”
We interview two long-time organizers around the issue, whose positions though not necessarily contradictory somewhat reflect the long-standing debate between those pushing for “decriminalization” and those advocating “abolition”. We speak to Chanelle Gallant from Maggie’s-Toronto, a Toronto-based sex workers action project; and Suzanne Baustad, co-founder of Grassroots Women – an anti-imperialist women’s group that was active in Vancouver between 1995 and 2010 and worked to address the systemic marginalization of working class women. Baustad also wrote in to BASICSNews.ca with an Op-Ed that you can read here.
By Nicole Oliver
On September 17, immigration detainees launched a strike over detention conditions at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario. Due to the forthcoming closure of the Toronto West Detention Centre, 191 immigration detainees were relocated to the maximum-security facility known colloquially as the “Lindsay Superjail”.
Part of the detainees protest action has included a hunger strike. The demands of the striking immigration detainees include: “Better access to medical care and social workers, cheaper phone calls and access to international calling cards (many have family overseas), access to better food, like the food on the non-immigration ranges, an end to constant lockdowns, keep the improved canteen program going, better access to legal aid and legal services, and granting of specific requests to move individuals to facilities nearer to their families, legal resources, and social services.1
According to the group No One Is Illegal-Toronto, “Between 2004 and 2011, 82,000 people were locked up in immigration detention. At least another 13,000 have been imprisoned since 2011. Just this year 289 of the detainees were children, many of them under the age of 10.”2
Back in June of 2012, the Conservative government’s Bill C-31, entitled the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”, came into force. This bill, championed by then Immigration minister Jason Kenney, brought about dramatic changes to Canada’s refugee determination system (which came into force on December 15th, 2012) and included provisions requiring that biometric data (fingerprints and photo) be collected as part of a temporary resident visa, work permit, and study permit application amongst other things.3
A community worker in Montreal who assists individuals in precarious immigration situations stated that, through Bill C-31 and Canada’s move toward increasing detention for migrants, the government appears to be making it more and more difficult and unattractive to come to Canada and claim protection. “That the only country ever awarded the Nansen Refugee Award by the United Nations is moving in this direction is a troubling sign for refugee protection on an international level”, she adds.
Under Bill C-31, appointed Immigration Ministers have the power to designate refugee source countries as “generally considered safe”. The Canadian Council for Refugees holds that “The Minister’s opinion is not dependent on expert opinion regarding country conditions, nor need the Minister take account of the differential risks faced by certain minorities in a country that is ‘safe’ for some, but not for others”.4
Additionally, with the introduction of Bill C-31, Clause 10 contains rulings of how Ministers are to proceed with “irregular arrivals”. “Irregular arrivals” according to Immigration Canada may include a group of people who arrive together in Canada. The Minister can designate a group as an “irregular arrival” for one of these reasons: suspicion of human smuggling or trafficking involving a criminal organization or terrorist group or the border authorities are not able to assess group members in a timely way regarding their identities or admissibility. Much criticism has been raised that such a policy appears targeted at particular groups of refugee claimants, such as Tamil and Roma peoples. Under Clause 10, those deemed irregular arrivals face mandatory detention, which includes children under 16-years of age. There are other stipulations under this clause that result in what some migrant justice groups label as a “two tiered refugee system” that arbitrarily distinguishes between “regular” and “irregular” arrivals.
When asked if her organization had formulated an official opinion on the so-called “two tiered” refugee system and as to whether the changes made seemed to be targeted at particular groups, the community worker responded “to be honest, due to the current context and our limited resources, we are in survival mode and really focusing on individual case work. It’s hard to focus on the big picture when we have to work so hard on ensuring that individuals have timely access to accurate information about their rights and, albeit limited, recourses in an ever-changing system.”
The community worker did note that they have observed that “persons of Mexican descent are especially hit hard” with the changes being made after the implementation of Bill C-31. She cites that “over 1000 Mexican refugee claimants were accepted by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2011”, yet Mexico has been placed on the Designated Country of Origin list by the immigration minister as, in his opinion, it is “generally considered safe”. She explains “that many folks coming from Mexico have very compelling humanitarian reasons to remain in Canada. For those whose cases do not fit within the narrow definition of a refugee, their recourses have been drastically reduced.” For example, failed DCO claimants who submitted their claim after December 15th 2012 do not have access to the Refugee Appeal Division, cannot apply for a work permit within the first 6 months of their arrival in Canada, have very limited health care coverage and do not benefit from a stay of removal if they choose to access their only recourse, a judicial review at the federal court.
The worker concludes our chat by emphasizing that, “our newest concern is with proposed changes being made to the family reunification process where the definition of a dependent child would be drastically narrowed beginning in January 2014”. She explains that the “general trend is devaluing family reunification, which has always been a priority for the Canadian government, and moving towards viewing family reunification through an economic lens”. In the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement for this proposal (now archived), the government explains “that older dependent children (those who arrive between the ages of 19 and 21) have lower economic outcomes than those who arrive in Canada at a younger age (between 15 and 18 years old)….that older immigrants have a more challenging time fully integrating into the Canadian labour market; this is more evident for immigrants who are not selected based on their own merits (e.g. dependent children).”5 This policy direction clearly demonstrates that a family’s worth under the Harper government is purely economical. Such shortsighted capitalist lenses will result in families who have been waiting years to be reunited remaining separated indefinitely.
by Denise Cordova and Nicole Oliver
The dedicated community organizer, Julian Ichim from Kitchener-Waterloo, appeared in court on September 30 facing charges held against him for blogging about his personal experiences with an undercover police officer in the year that lead up to the Toronto G20 protests. Arguments were put forward that the charges should be dismissed because the Crown is over-prosecuting the case.
Julian Ichim is a 33-year-old former University of Waterloo student. He has been a community activist and organizer for over a decade, positively changing the communities he has worked with. He started one of the first youth-run youth drop-in centers in Kitchener, assisted in creating youth harm reduction programs, coordinated addictions programs and anti-poverty initiatives, helped run free food programs, among an exhaustive list of initiatives.
But his strong political and social conscience has come at a high price.
In light of the G20 Summit in Toronto from June 26-27, 2010 many activist groups prepared to take that opportunity to protest under the banner of various causes, including fighting poverty and capitalism. So for a year and a half prior to the Summit, undercover police infiltrated protest groups planning G20 demonstrations. In Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, two undercover officers, started spending time with activists and Ichim unwittingly became friends with one of the undercover officers. That is, until he was arrested on June 26, 2010 hours before the G20 Summit even began. He was charged with conspiracy to commit mischief. Ichim never received the police synopsis (police version of what happened and why he was charged) nor was he told where or when he allegedly counseled or conspired to commit indictable offenses. These charges were later dropped.
Ichim was not able to speak publicly about his brutal arrest on June 26, being persecuted for his Marxist political ideology, nor about his feelings after having been deceived by the officer who he considered to be a personal friend. Neither was he able to speak about the most difficult part of it all, having lost his mother to cancer during this process. So he decided to start his own blog in November 2011 in an attempt to tell his story, about the G20 among many other things.
One month later, he was criminalized just for speaking out. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) asked Julian to remove one of his posts where he referred to the undercover police officer. The cop identity was never reveled. But standing by his principles and his belief in freedom of speech, he refused to remove his post and was therefore charged by the police with three counts of disobeying a court order.
According to Ichim “the purpose of the motion for today was to challenge the Crown’s chosen path; to proceed with indictment. There were other options available, yet the Crown chose not to use those options.”
The charges Ichim faced could result in up to two years in prison, which argues Ichim “is clearly a case of over prosecution due to the fact that I took a political stand”.
The Judge for the trial, Justice Michael Quigley ruled the Crown could not proceed by indictment based on legal principles, although he refused to acknowledge the political grounds at the core of Ichim’s defense.
“It is important Mr. Ichim specifically understand that there is absolutely no finding being made here of improper motive or improper conduct by the Crown,” said Quigley.
Despite the judge’s words, Ichim, a long-time activist with dozens of arrests under his belt, said the decision is an important victory in fighting charges he claims are politically motivated.
Ichim has told BASICSNEWS.CA that he believes the charges were pursued so as to intimidate other protestors.
Still pending are claims in a $4-million lawsuit that Ichim is making against the undercover officer, the province and the Toronto police force.
“The high police presence in our neighbourhood has resulted in an unfair and disproportionate targeting of people living here,” says VANDU Community Organizer/ Volunteer Coordinator Aiyanas Ormond. “By criminalizing people for non-criminal behaviour like jaywalking, vending and panhandling, the VPD is actually harming our community, causing increased stress, economic hardship and incarceration for people who are already among the poorest and most marginalized in the city.”
“Jaywalking is common behaviour across the city,” continues Ormond. “Only in the DTES is this behaviour disproportionately and discriminatorily criminalized. The VPD is covering up this unfair practice by claiming that their ticketing of the DTES residents is intended to promote pedestrian safety. But the VPD provide no evidence that bylaw enforcement either discourages jaywalking or increases pedestrian safety – because there is none. Quite the opposite, by the VPD’s own account, DTES pedestrian strikes have decreased during a period when VPD ticketing for jaywalking also decreased.”
“We do have a very good guide for improving pedestrian safety in the CoV funded VANDU Pedestrian Safety Report. The implementation of some of these recommendations – inadequate and piecemeal – has had a positive impact on pedestrian safety in our community. Enforcement of jaywalking bylaws is not one of the recommendations because there is no evidence that it improves pedestrian safety! The measure that has had the biggest impact, the 30km zone on Hastings, was explicitly opposed by the Vancouver Police Department. So the VPD’s supposed concern for the safety of our community members is really a smokescreen to justify existing, discriminatory practice.”
Dave Hamm is a Downtown Eastside resident, the President of the VANDU Board of Directors and a vendor who has received a number of tickets for selling used and recycled goods.
“Most people in our neighbourhood don’t have yards,” says Hamm. “We are very poor people, trying to survive in really difficult economic times and we are being criminalized for it. If this was really about stolen goods or drug dealing as the police claim, there are laws on the books to deal with those issues. For us it seems like they are just criminalizing poor people trying to survive.”
“VANDU will be attending the Police Board meeting to demand that the Board – and Mayor Robertson in particular – exercise meaningful civilian control over the VPD, stop this discriminatory and oppressive practice, and implement real community based solutions to the real problems in our neighbourhood. We are tired of being used as justification for steadily increasing police budgets and not getting the real economic, social and planning supports that our community really needs.”
This Monday morning, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) charged Constable James Forcillo for second-degree murder in the shooting of 18-year old Sammy Yatim on July 26, 2013. Various YouTube postings of the initial civilian footage clearly show that a distressed Yatim—armed only with a 3 inch blade, isolated in a streetcar and surrounded by Police—was of little threat to anyone prior to being shot 9 times and then tasered.
The ruling has been received with a mixture of shock, relief and jubilation. From Sammy’s family and friends came the joy of seeing some potential of justice emerging from the murder of their loved one. “The SIU charged the cop with 2nd degree murder!!! Good morning JUSTICE,” wrote Sammy’s sister Sarah over Twitter. Indeed, much of the commentary over social media shows the extent to which people were incensed by this tragedy, and relieved to see some sign that the perpetrator would be held accountable.
Shock, of course, because this type of ruling isn’t the norm. Forcillo is just the 7th police officer to be charged by the SIU with manslaughter or murder since 1990. Importantly, however, all previously charged officers have been cleared in court.
by Ajamu Nangwaya
“Organization is the weapon of the oppressed.” – Kwame Ture (aka Stokely Carmichael)
Racialized working-class communities and indigenous peoples know the daily reality of police violence and containment. We do not need the intervention of civil liberty organizations, criminology courses or exposure to police violence at a G20 Summit to become conscious of the fact that when the police serve and protect, we are not included within that protective cloak.
We are quite aware of the fact that the police serve and protect the interest of socially dominant groups, based on our experience of colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy and capitalist exploitation. Our teachers are the scars, the memories of loved ones and comrades maimed or killed, the very presence of the police in our communities as an occupation army.
The killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, after a trial in Florida, inspired outrage and mobilization among Afrikan people and others of good conscience across North America. So did the Toronto police killing of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, a case that reeks of excessive use of force against a racialized and mentally distressed youth.
The killing was caught on tape and widely circulated in the media. This killing has mobilized Toronto’s youth and others in the street and on blogs, Facebook pages and walls and twitter.
However, mobilizing around each case of police violence and then sitting down when the issue in no longer showing up in our Facebook newsfeed and in the mass media will not do much to tackle this oppressive behaviour. We need to organize on a 24/7 basis against police violence.
“Despite the pain Lilian Villanueva lives through each day, she has not quit… She is still here. She is still standing up for truth and justice in the case of her son’s death.” As Margess said those words, she looked over at Lilian Villanueva and her family and friends who stood beside a vigil set up to honour Lilian’s son, Fredy Villanueva.
A group of over a hundred people gathered on August 9th to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Fredy Villanueva’s death.
5 years ago in the very same parking lot, Lilian lost her son at the hands of a police officer.
The “police officer, … pulled out his gun and without warning, fired on three youth in his field of vision. Hitting Fredy Villanueva with two shots to the chest…Freddy Villanueva, died two hours later. He was 18 years old at the time,” said Alex Popovic.
The government was forced to set up a coroner’s inquest to investigate the murder. “All the witnesses who testified, except for the police officer Lapointe, said that the shots fired by Lapointe were not justified. and that the youth, never constituted a threat to the police officer. Even Lapointe’s police partner, who was right beside him, testified that she never feared for her life,” said Popovic.
Despite the testimonies, the police officer was cleared and was recently promoted to the Montreal SWAT.
Will Prosper, a community organizer, worries that policing “is going to be even more severe for citizens.”
His concerns were echoed by many at the gathering. A mother of four recounted a traumatizing event she and her children recently faced at the hands of the police. While another community member, looked into the crowd of people and listed a dozen people in the crowd who had been victims of police brutality.
When asked about what was needed to change the current state of police repression, Prosper said, “We need to mobilize the citizens… We need to shed light on what happened and to bring a different message from those groups that are in place to maintain the system that is oppressing us.”
“[The government funded groups] want us to think that everything is great. They make some cosmetic changes, but they are not addressing the true problems we have in our community,” said Prosper.